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    Trusting the Process: A CATM Training Feature

    Capstone Feature Supporting Image 5

    Photo By Senior Airman Chelsie Taddonio | MSgt Jerod Simmons, 315th SFS Combat Arms NCOIC instructs a class on safety while...... read more read more

    The heat of the sun was a welcome sensation from the icy shadows of the wooden overhang on February 7, 2020. The smell of metal and dirt lingered in the air whilst I circled a table stacked high with ammunition. I was at the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM) range on Joint Base Charleston to qualify on the M9 pistol. My self-doubt and inexperience crept up my spine causing a nervous shudder as I peered down a dark lane at a torso-shaped target.
    The hard, heavy steel of my weapon was folded between the skin of my fingers. I lifted my arms, pointing the nose of the pistol down-range; the safety was off. My finger slid to the trigger… exhale… pull. MISS. My weak wrists felt the kick of the bullet thrusting away from the barrel, causing a jolt upward that disturbed my aim. I stiffened, and I held my hands tightly around my weapon…exhale… pull… pull… pull. Three HITS.
    As an Air Force Reservist, I knew my junior rank was on full display in front of a sea of experienced pilots to my left and right. Luckily, I listened carefully to the briefing I was given, and I had the support of Master Sergeant Jerod Simons, a CATM instructor with the 315th Security Forces Squadron. While standing at a safe distance, he assisted with any questions I had. He also helped ensure I was taking all safety precautions, and he walked me through what to do when my pistol jammed.
    “What I see more than anything is a lack of confidence in handling the weapon,” said Simons.
    It is his goal to make sure everyone stays safe and gains some confidence in their weapon-handling skills. While on the range, he looks for safety violations, such as repeatedly swinging the muzzle left and right or not keeping it pointed down-range.
    “I think that it’s important that if things go very bad on a base, that you are not completely in the dark on what to do if, God forbid, they just start handing out weapons on that base and you actually have to defend yourself,” said Simons.
    Jerod Simons is a local to the area and grew up in West Ashley, a town right outside of Charleston-proper. He has been around firearms his whole life. His respect for weapons began when as a kid, he went hunting with his father. His first memory with a firearm was when his dad taught him how to shoot on a 22 rifle. He remembers hearing the boom and feeling like a “big guy.” - as though the power of the weapon was an extension of his own strength from within. He describes it as one of his “coolest” childhood memories.
    Now as an adult, he has more than 11 years of SWAT training and became a firearm instructor for the Charleston Police Department in 2009. Not only does he pass his knowledge and love for firearms onto the local police, he also instructs one weekend per month as an Air Force reservist. What he enjoys most is teaching people who aren’t proficient in a weapon, rather than his more experienced pupils.
    “I like to see the light come on,” said Simons. “I’ve seen people who have zero ability with this and then, they listen, learn, and come out here and perform. I think anybody can come out here and learn it.”
    He remembers having an older female Senior Master Sergeant in a class, and upon first glance, he didn’t think she looked physically capable of controlling and firing her weapon. During the safety course, she listened to everything they taught in the class and applied it on the range. Simons remembers that out of 20 people that day, she ended up being the best shooter because she trusted the process and paid attention.
    “For me, what’s most important is [my students] know a little bit more than they did when they showed up,” said Simons.
    Over the years, there have been few changes to CATM instruction. In fact, Simons can only recall one change in the last 20 years. According to Simons, that adjustment was implemented one or two years ago and stated every volley must come from the holster when qualifying on the M9 pistol. If he could make a change, it would be to have Airmen shoot their weapons more often.
    “The most difficult part is for people to retain the information… I would like to see them more often, but I understand it’s difficult with meeting only once a month,” said Simons.
    Currently, all Airmen fall within two CATM categories based on their career field. Group A must qualify on their weapons annually. This group is comprised of career fields such as Security Forces and Pilots. Group B, a majority of career fields, must qualify on their weapons every three years.
    “It’s important to train on your weapon because we’re in the armed forces and we expect you to have some sort of technical ability with the pistol,” said Simons.
    To qualify on the firearm, Airmen must attend a CATM course and fire a total of 90 rounds from varying distances and positions on the range. To qualify, at least 35 rounds need to hit the target.
    At the end of my firing experience, I am proud to say I qualified by hitting 40 rounds on the target within my first 45 shots. I attribute this success to my instructor as I have had very little experience around weapons. I listened to everything Master Sgt. Simons taught me, and I made any corrections he spotted. Trusting the process led to a smooth experience. Now, I have a new-found confidence with the pistol. CATM training has created a vigilance and preparedness in me that will make me a better military member for the United States Air Force Reserve.



    Date Taken: 02.07.2020
    Date Posted: 02.21.2021 12:51
    Story ID: 389488
    Location: US

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